late 14c., "a violent striking together of two bodies," from dash (v.). In writing and printing, "horizontal line used as a punctuation mark," 1550s. Meaning "small infusion or mixture" is from 1610s. Meaning "showy appearance" is from 1715; sense of "capacity for prompt action" is by 1796. As one of the two Morse code signals from 1859. Sporting sense is from 1881, originally "a short race run in one attempt, not in heats."
c. 1300, "strike suddenly and violently," also "move quickly, rush violently," and, transitive, "cause to strike suddenly and violently;" probably from a Scandinavian source (compare Swedish daska, Danish daske "to beat, strike"), somehow imitative. The oldest sense is that in dash to pieces and dashed hopes. Meaning "scatter or sprinkle" (something, over something else) is by 1520s. Intransitive meaning "write or sketch hurriedly" is by 1726 in dash off. By 1800 as a euphemism for damn. Related: Dashed; dashing.
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